Hotel set for spring opening
Council approves change in room count
The developer of the hotel under construction at the corner of Ogletown Road and Capitol Trail is aiming for a spring opening after city council begrudgingly signed off on an amended special-use permit last week.
The new permit, which changes the number of rooms from 125 to 132, corrects an error in the way the number of rooms was calculated but does not change the floor plan or square footage of the building.
Work never stopped on the project, but developer Danneman Hospitality essentially had to go though the development approval process a second time, seeking approval from the board of adjustment, planning commission and city council.
“There were mistakes on both sides that were corrected,” George Danneman said last week. “We’re happy it’s behind us.”
The initial plan for the Marriott Spring Hill Suites, approved in May 2016, called for 125 rooms, seven of which were two-room suites. However, when Danneman submitted more detailed building plans earlier this year, the city planning department determined that each suite was actually two adjacent rooms connected by a door that can be locked to allow the rooms to be rented separately.
“This increased the total room count from 125 to 132 rooms that could be rented at any given time — exceeding the amount of rooms approved by council in the special-use permit and requiring seven additional offstreet parking spaces to be provided on site,” city planner Mike Fortner wrote in a memo to council.
At an Aug. 28 council meeting, Danneman and his attorney described the problem as an error in interpreting city code.
“There have been no material changes to our plans. We’re planning exactly what we promised we would build,” Danneman said. “Unfortunately, as with major projects, some minor interpretations and inconsistencies in our zoning process have occurred.”
Stephen Kessler, an attorney representing Danneman Hospitality, said the project is complex.
“It’s not every day you build a hotel. We, in fact, have never built a hotel,” Kessler said. “You’re bound to have interpretation issues like this come up.”
Council unanimously approved the amended special-use permit and major subdivision agreement, but not before some members chastised Danneman and Kessler.
“I’m personally displeased and upset with your disposition and presentation tonight,” Councilman Luke Chapman said. “I think the comments and the attitude are incredibly disrespectful to this body and I believe that your comments were a little misleading in terms of discrepancies and interpretations. The fact of the matter is the onus is on that of the applicant to be completely prepared and organized.”
Councilman Stu Markham, too, pointed out council’s displeasure.
“If you notice the frowns up here it’s because, at least for me, I don’t like to see a project come back. It’s hard to explain to constituents,” he said.
Earlier this year, the board of adjustment agreed to expand the hotel’s parking variance by seven spaces, for a total of 43. Danneman plans to rent parking spaces from neighboring Aetna Hose Hook and Ladder Company to use for employee parking.
Construction of the hotel began in the spring and as of last week, the framing was largely complete and crews were installing wiring, plumbing and HVAC ducts. By October, the exterior walls will be complete and workers will spend the winter doing interior construction.
“We’re excited about all the hard work that has been done onsite,” Danneman said Aug. 30 as he toured the building.
The land has been in Danneman’s family since his grandfather moved his fabric store there in 1976. After the fabric store closed in the late 1990s, the family leased the property to Newark Toyota World, which moved to Cleveland Avenue in 2014.
“It feels pretty surreal,” Danneman said of redeveloping the property. “It reflects what Delaware as a whole is doing. We’ve had to pivot and reflect the changing economy.
The 2.3-acre site will also contain a standalone restaurant, the tenant for which Danneman said will be announced soon.
Work is underway on the Marriott SpringHill Suites hotel on Ogletown Road, which will open next spring.